WEB & TECH / AUG. 18, 2014
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Can't Seem to Find a Reliable and Efficient Presenter? Check-out RoboThespian, the First Commercial Robot.

As technology advances, we witness more and more incredible inventions and discoveries. We have almost become desensitized to all the amazing things being achieved. We don’t give our morning commute a second thought, but think how far we have come from a horse and buggy.

Many of us joke, that one day robots will take over. Although this is an extreme statement, robotic machines are completing more and more tasks and duties throughout common and even more high security areas.

My husband and I just returned from visiting family and friends in England. When we arrived back into Canada, we were able to skip the visitors queue and go straight to the residents line. Currently, you can go to a machine instead of a border security officer and scan your passport, along with your declaration card.

Once the machine registers your information, it prints a copy of your declaration card and takes the original. When the printed copy came out, I joked to my husband that it was like being at the arcade. Besides two officers quickly scanning our print-out, we did not have any contact or any questions asked. The machine did all the work, pretty remarkable.

This machine increased convenience levels and is something to stop and think about. Although this machine did not have arm and legs, it replaced a role that is high security and extremely important. Throughout the years, we have seen various robots emerge. How personable could a robot really be?

Robots do not have any conscious awareness by any means, but the RoboThespian can most certainly make you feel as though there’s a real connection. ’Engineered Arts’ is a British company located in Penryn, Cornwall. Their human-like robot delivers information in a more accessible way, as it is highly interactive.

You can access information in a variety of ways. You can have information pre-set into the robot so that it can recall that data, or it can respond to voice command. This voice command is much like Siri, but at a much higher level. Siri also doesn’t make eye contact and hand gestures, which is what makes this robot so interactive.

The goal was to create an automated presenter, and that’s exactly what they did. These machines are being sold to universities, museums, and various companies to both entertain and communicate at events and trade shows. 

It has caught the attention of many, including NASA. Considering NASA is American, they’re required to use American products if available. They have purchased a RoboThespian, which clearly shows how unique it really is.

Will Jackson, the founder of Engineered Arts has a background in special effects. He worked within the film and television industry for years. Throughout the 90’s, he was working on exhibitions within the Science Museum. He realized that he needed a machine to deliver information to visitors in an entertaining manner. Human presenters can get nervous and become bored of regurgitating the same information, as they stand in one place all day.

We have seen many incredible robots before, but this robot is the first full-sized humanoid that is commercially available to people around the globe. Not only can this robot give its audience information, but it can tell jokes, guess your age, sing, and even blow kisses. It will never get bored, as it does not have any conscious thought.  

Jackson and his team are now working on the next stage, which involves the possibility of hopping, walking, and jumping. They believe that a prototype will be up and running within a year. This robot will be named ’Byrun,’ and its fingers will be sensitive to both temperature and pressure.

Jackson has owned his company for nine years now. During that time, he has been asked to sell his robots for military purposes, but he is opposed to this. He doesn’t want to get involved with anything related to death and killing individuals from a distance. He said that his creations will never be sold to the military.

There’s nothing to fear when it comes to this fun-loving robot. With its cameras, facial recognition, and depth perception, this robot it more of an entertainer than anything else. This incredible machine can be trained to recognise gestures so that it can replicate them. For example, someone waving hello. Its movements can also be controlled remotely through a tablet, while someone is in another room.

Although people have mixed feelings about robots and their capabilities, the RoboThespian is not going to be taking over the world anytime soon. It relays the same information that your screen does at home, it just delivers that information in a more interactive fashion.

You do not need to be concerned, but excited. This robot is nothing like ’I, Robot,’ which is the type of advances that scare the public. This robot is a highly controlled and informative machine. Who knows, you may even pick up some presentation pointers from watching its performance.

At approximately £55,000, you will not be seeing these robots on every street corner. However, it is interesting to stay up-to-date regarding its progress and the ways in which companies are utilizing the benefits it offers. 


Photo credit: jiunguangw

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